Arizona – Atlanta – Baltimore – Boston – Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox – Cincinnati – Cleveland – Colorado – Detroit
Houston – Kansas City – LA Angels – LA Dodgers – Miami
Milwaukee – Minnesota – New York Mets – New York Yankees – Oakland
Philadelphia – Pittsburgh – St. Louis – San Diego – San Francisco
Seattle – Tampa Bay – Texas – Toronto – Washington
Best trade: Acquired C.C. Sabathia from Indians for Michael Brantley, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson and Matt LaPorta (July 7, 2008)
Sabathia is unquestionably what pushed the Brewers over the hump and into a playoff team in 2008. In 17 starts with Milwaukee, Sabathia went 11-2, pitching to a 1.65 ERA while striking out 128 in 130 2/3 innings. That half-season worth of value allowed him to finish fifth in the NL Cy Young voting, and sixth in the NL MVP voting. Bryson never made the majors, Jackson had a 6.11 ERA in 63 1/3 innings with Cleveland, and LaPorta was a notorious disappointment in his four seasons with the Indians, hitting .238/.301/.393 before the team eventually cut bait. The only big loss was Brantley, who didn’t truly break out until this year when he made the All-Star team at 27 thanks to a .329/.388/.523 line. Milwaukee will gladly take that hit for becoming relevant in the NL Central again.
Worst trade: Acquired Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero from Rangers for Nelson Cruz and Carlos Lee (July 28, 2006)
The value the Brewers got in this deal was slim – a year and a half of an above average closer in Coco Cordero, a couple of bench players, and a compensation draft pick from Cordero’s signing with the Reds that became Jake Odorizzi. As for what they gave up…well, Cruz didn’t really start getting regular playing time in Texas until 2009, but once that train started rolling, it couldn’t be stopped. He finished his Rangers career with 157 homers and a .268/.327/.495 line. Lee hit .322/.369/.525 with nine homers in 59 games with the Rangers before singing an absurd free agent contract with the Astros. Call the draft picks a wash – the Rangers got Blake Beavan and Julio Borbon as compensation when Lee left town.
Best trade: Acquired Carl Pavano from Indians for Yohan Pino (August 7, 2009)
Pino didn’t make the majors until 2014…and he did that with the Twins. Pavano wasn’t great with hte Twins, but did give them 88 starts of 4.32 ERA baseball over four seasons. And hell, like most major trades, the deal itself was fine, but the contract extension afterwards was the real mistake. Pavano didn’t truly fall apart until 2012, which is pretty shocking given that he’s…you know, Carl Pavano.
Worst trade: Acquired Matt Capps from the Nationals for Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa (July 29, 2010)
Trading for relievers is stupid. Don’t trade for relievers. The Twins ignored that logic when they picked up Capps from the Nationals during the 2010 stretch run. They won the AL Central title after that trade, but haven’t made the playoffs since. Capps had a 3.61 ERA in 122 innings, and ended up losing save opportunities in 2011 and 2012 to Joe Nathan and Glen Perkins. He hasn’t been in the majors since. Testa never made the majors, but Ramos has been a star behind the plate for Washington when healthy. He’s played in 270 career games, turns 27 next month, and has hit .273/.327/.441. Finding top-tier young catching is hard, and the Twins dumped one for a reliever. Given the fact that Joe Mauer has already moved out from behind the plate, this deal looks even more disappointing.
New York Mets
Best trade: Acquired Mike Piazza from Marlins for Geoff Goetz, Preston Wilson, and Ed Yarnall (May 22, 1998)
Talk about a trade that changes the direction of a franchise. Goetz never made the majors, Yarnall only threw 20 innings as a major leaguer, and Preston Wilson spent time with six major league teams during his career, which was over by the time he was 32. As for Piazza, well, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball history. As a Met, Piazza thrived, hitting .296/.373/.542 with 220 homers, making seven All-Star Games in eight seasons and winning five Silver Slugger awards. Needless to say, this worked out just a bit for the Mets.
Worst trade: Acquired Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano from Devil Rays for Jose Diaz and Scott Kazmir (July 30, 2004)
Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir. It’s gone down in history as one of the most short-sighted trades of all-time. Zambrano had a 4.42 ERA in 39 appearances with the Mets after this trade, including a 6.75 ERA in just five starts in the Mets’ NL East championship season of 2006. Kazmir spent six years as a member of the Devil Rays (and later, just the Rays), pitching to a 3.92 ERA in 834 innings to go along with 874 strikeouts. As we detailed earlier, the Rays then dealt Kazmir to the Angels for a package of players still helping the team today. Sometimes, it’s best not to think of a short-term upgrade at the expense of your future – you could say the same thing about the Mets fleecing the Giants in the Zack Wheeler/Carlos Beltran trade in 2011.
New York Yankees
Best trade: Acquired David Cone from Blue Jays for Mike Gordon, Jason Jarvis, and Marty Janzen (July 28, 1995)
The three players New York sent to Toronto threw a total of 98 2/3 innings in the majors, all from Janzen. He had a 6.39 career ERA. Neither Jarvis nor Gordon even made it to AAA. Cone was brilliant during his six years in pinstripes, pitching to a 3.91 ERA (a number inflated by a 6.91 ERA in 2000 at age 37), making a pair of All-Star teams, tossing a perfect games, and winning four rings. Remember – Cone was the 1994 AL Cy Young winner in that strike-shortened year, and he was traded twice in the span of four months, with each team that dealt him getting next to nothing in return. Of course it was the Yankees who ended up benefiting the most at the end of the day.
Worst trade: Acquired Esteban Loaiza from White Sox for Jose Contreras (July 31, 2004)
I outlined this trade in the “best’ part of the White Sox section, but let’s go over it once again as a recap. Contreras made 36 appearances of 4.64 ERA baseball with the Yankees after getting signed out of Cuba and was dealt for Loaiza, the 2003 AL Cy Young runner-up and an All_Star in 2003 and 2004. Loaiza made ten appearances with New York and had an 8.50 ERA before signing with the Nationals before the 2005 season. Contreras was a rock in the White Sox rotation from 2004 to 2009, and helped the team win the 2005 World Series. Sounds about right.
Best trade: Acquired Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, and Eric Patterson from Cubs for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden (July 8, 2008)
I didn’t list this trade as the worst Cubs trade because Harden did what he was supposed to do for them. But it’s a different situation for the A’s. Harden was coming off a pair of seasons where he threw a total of 72 1/3 innings, and had somehow remained reasonably healthy during the first half of 2008, making 13 starts and tossing 77 innings. They sold high and dealt him to the Cubs, and Harden threw 212 innings with them over a season and a half before bottoming out and throwing 174 2/3 innings over the rest of his career (including a 15 inning stint back with the A’s in 2011). While Gallagher, Murton, and Patterson were all promptly moved by the A’s, Donaldson stuck around and finally paid dividends last season, becoming one of the best third basemen in baseball. It only took five years, but hey, Rich Harden is still paying dividends in Oakland.
Worst trade: Acquired Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein from Cardinals for Mark McGwire (July 31, 1997)
After a couple of injury-plagued seasons in the 90s, Mark McGwire found andro and stayed healthy starting in 1995, turning back into one of the best power hitters on the planet. After a 52 homer season in 1996, Oakland dumped McGwire off on the Cardinals in 1997. In his final two months of the year with St. Louis McGwire went yard 24 times in 51 games, leading to the wild home run chase of 1998 the following year. In 545 games with St. Louis, McGwire hit 220 long balls, retiring in 2001 at age 37. None of the three pitchers the A’s got in return from the Cardinals for Big Mac stuck around past 2001, and Mathews had the lowest ERA of the bunch at 4.78 (which actually wasn’t a terrible mark in the late 90s). Trade one of the greatest power hitters of all-time and get three warm bodies? Sure, why not?